The 2012 NHL draft is loaded with quality defensemen, to the point that we could see anywhere from five to seven blue-liners selected in the top 10 picks.
For my money, I'm sticking with five young defensemen I think are worthy of a top-10 selection. From steady presences and physical specimens to playmakers from the point, this draft has a defensive option for any team in need of solidifying their blue line for the future.
Let's take a look at these highly-regarded prospects in my latest NHL mock draft.
1. Edmonton Oilers: Nail Yakupov, LW, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
If the Oilers can't trade this pick, Yakupov has to be the guy. He simply has too much talent and skill to pass up if they stay in this slot.
2. Columbus Blue Jackets: Filip Forsberg, LW, Leksands IF (Allsvenkan)
The Blue Jackets could go in a number of directions here, but Forsberg is an excellent power forward who is as capable of scoring a gritty goal battling in front of the net or setting a screen as he is blasting one past the goalie on the rush.
3. Montreal Canadiens: Mikhail Grigorenko, C, Quebec Remparts (QJMHL)
Don't be shocked if the Canadiens try to move up to the top pick to select Yakupov or draft center prospect Alex Galchenyuk. If they stay here, Grigorenko is as complete an offensive prospect as you'll find and would add some much needed punch to the center of the ice in Montreal.
4. New York Islanders: Ryan Murray, D, Everett Silvertips (WHL)
At a position that generally takes some developmental time, Murray should have a short transition period. He's an effortless, natural player that rarely catches your eye for making a mistake or finding himself out of position. He doesn't have many weaknesses, and he'll be a top-pairing defenseman for many years.
Don't be shocked if he goes to Edmonton with the top pick, or No. 2 to the Blue Jackets.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs: Alex Galchenyuk, C, Sarina Sting (OHL)
The Leafs are another team that could move up to the top spot. If they stay here, Galchenyuk is the dangerous young forward that the Leafs covet.
6. Anaheim Ducks: Matthew Dumba, D, Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
He is a true two-way defenseman who skates with excellent pace and isn't afraid to lay into a player on the boards. Where Murray is likely to go unnoticed in a good way, Dumba will catch your attention as he flies around the ice, making plays.
Different styles, but both offer solid returns. Dumba may not be for the faint of heart, but he has star potential.
7. Minnesota Wild: Jacob Trouba, D, USNDTP (USHL)
I think David Gregory of the NHL Scouting Network sums up Trouba quite nicely:
"He has offense skills and he really does defend well. You can just tell by how he plays in all areas of the ice that he's a big kid who skates really well, he loves to jump into the play and has confidence because he knows his skating can get him back, so he rarely gets caught out of position. He's going to be someone people are going to talk about; we've known about him for a couple years and he hasn't disappointed."
8. Carolina Hurricanes: Griffin Reinhart, D, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)
Despite having excellent size and strength, Reinhart is also a finesse player who will contribute on the offensive end.
Sure, he'll put you on your butt if you cross the blue line with your head down, but he'll also move the puck well from the point and impress with his smooth, easy movement.
Methinks that versatility will play well in Carolina.
9. Winnipeg Jets: Morgan Rielly, D, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
As Blair MacDonald of NHL Scouting Network notes, Rielly's strength is his creativity from the point:
"I've seen Rielly do things on the ice that nobody else was doing. I saw him make those little passes to guys who weren't expecting the puck to get there. He's the type of player who can lead the rush and he'll be the first guy back. I think his creativity makes him one of the top players in the league. He's like a chess player; he's thinking one or two moves ahead. He sees stuff coming that a lot of players don't see."
Anytime you're comparing a player in a game as fast-paced as hockey to a chess player, that's a very, very good thing.
10. Tampa Bay Lightning: Teuvo Teravainen, LW, Jokerit Helsinki (SM-Liiga)
Teravainen brings a lot of speed and creativity off the wing, creating his own shot or adeptly finding teammates while racking up the assists.
11. Washington Capitals (from Colorado Avalanche): Brendan Gaunce, C, Belleville Bulls (OHL)
With winger Alexander Semin headed out of town, the Caps could look to add some creativity from the wing. But I think a solid, two-way prospect at center will better fit the sea change in Washington's philosophy.
12. Buffalo Sabres: Cody Ceci, D, Ottawa 67s (OHL)
Don't be shocked if Ceci is another top-10 pick at the defenseman position. As it were, the Sabres would love it if he dropped to them here.
13. Dallas Stars: Radek Faksa, C/W, Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
He was good for 66 points (29 goals, 37 assists) for OHL side Kitchener last season. Dude is a goal-scorer and playmaker, plain and simple.
14. Calgary Flames: Zemgus Girgensons, C, Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
He's a big, aggressive center with a penchant for putting the puck in the back of the net. Too much potential for the Flames to pass up here.
15. Ottawa Senators: Hampus Lindholm, D, Rogle (Allsvenskan)
The depth defensively in this draft is remarkable. With the 16th pick, the Senators will add Lindholm, a future top-pair defenseman.
16. Washington Capitals: Olli Maatta, D, London Knights (OHL)
Maatta is another guy that could find himself in the top-10 picks. He and Gaunce are an excellent pair to add in this draft.
17. San Jose Sharks: Sebastian Collberg, RW, Vastra Frolunda HC (SEL)
Collberg is raw, but his potential is off the roof. He could end up being one of the better playmakers from this draft five years from now.
18. Chicago Blackhawks: Pontus Aberg, LW, Djurgardens IF Stockholm (SEL)
Aberg absolutely flies on the ice, putting pressure on defenders by skating up the wings and cutting on net. He'll fit in swimmingly with the Blackhawks skill players.
19. Tampa Bay Lightning: Matt Finn, D, Guelph Storm (OHL)
Finn is an excellent two-way defenseman, and has 50-point upside in the NHL.
20. Philadelphia Flyers: Slater Koekkoek, D, Peterborough Petes (OHL)
The Flyers have plenty of offensive talent, but they have holes on defense. If they don't select a defender with this pick, I'll shout something angry and probably obscene (yeah, I'm a Flyers fan, what gave me away?).
21. Buffalo Sabres (from Nashville Predators): Tom Wilson, RW, Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
Here's all you need to know, via his bio at NHL.com: "He was voted as the ‘Best Body Checker’ in the OHL’s 2012 Western Conference Coaches Poll and was a runner up for the ‘Hardest Worker’ distinction."
I like him already.
22. Pittsburgh Penguins: Derrick Pouliot, D, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
His scoring has improved markedly over the past three years, culminating in a 59-point season last year in 72 games.
23. Florida Panthers: Brady Skjei, D, USNDTP (USHL)
Skjei is a solid skater and heady player who should transition quickly at the next level.
24. Boston Bruines: Dalton Thrower, D, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
Thrower should shoot up the board after a 2011-12 season that saw him score 54 points with 18 goals in 66 games. His previous high in points was 20 the year prior.
25. St. Louis Blues: Stefan Matteau, C, USNDTP (USHL)
He's an excellent scorer and a gritty, physical presence at the center position. The defensive-minded Blues will love his style.
26. Vancouver Canucks: Scott Laughton, C, Oshawa Generals (OHL)
Laughton is a physical, enforcing presence who may find himself on a checking line in the NHL. But he also can score goals, giving him serious two-way upside.
27. Phoenix Coyotes: Tim Bozon, LW, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
With veterans like Ray Whitney and Shane Doan possibly leaving in free agency, the Coyotes will need to add some youth at the forward position.
28. New York Rangers: Andrey Vasilevski, G, Tolpar Ufa (MHL)
A goalie! Hooray!. Vasilevski is a long-term project, but that works just fine in New York where that Henrik Lundqvist guy has a pretty firm hold on the position.
29. New Jersey Devils: Malcolm Subban, G, Belleville (OHL)
Contrary to popular belief, Martin Brodeur can't play forever. Who knew?
30. Los Angeles Kings: Tomas Hertl, C, HC Slavia Praha (Czech)
The Kings won the Cup in large part due to goaltending, solid defense and a ferocious forecheck. Hertl will help in two of those regards. I'm sure you can guess which ones.
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